Leadership is fundamental to every aspect of life. That makes effective leadership skills a great necessity for everyone. In one way or the other we are all called to lead. You may be looking forward to leading an entire nation, a state, city or company. Except you do not plan on becoming a parent, you will one day have to lead a home (if you are not leading one already). One fact, however, is that when it comes to leading smaller groups of people, leaders seem to do it unconsciously. The father of a home with two kids for example may not wake every morning conscious of the fact that being a dad means leading your wife and children in more ways than he knows. His wife and children look up to him automatically to make decisions regarding almost every aspect of their lives. They look up to him to lead the family into places of prosperity, increase, peace and love.
The average dad seldom thinks of himself as the leader. He does not get up every morning conscious of the fact that his words, actions and inactions have a great impact on the productivity and effectiveness of his children and wife. This makes it hard for him to effectively influence the members of his family positively.
The case in government and corporate settings is different. Government and corporate leaders cannot carry out their role nor meet their goals without consciously playing the leadership role. That said, we have to admit that being in a place of leadership is no assurance of effectiveness. Many people were borne into positions of leadership. Let’s take a prince, princess for example or maybe the first son of a multimillion dollar company owner. These people are born into positions of leadership but that does not in any way mean they are born leaders. The qualities of a good leader have to be attained by learning and practice. Though someone may be born naturally forward in matters of leadership and management, he or she has to be groomed into being an effective leader. This implies that everyone needs knowledge and practice of certain leadership skills and abilities in order to be effective in leadership. These leadership skills and abilities are what we shall occupy ourselves with in the lines that follow.
Effective communication sponsors effective leadership
Effective communication has always been a very sensitive topic and has triggered a lot of studies and teachings. It is of utmost necessity in leadership and management. This is essentially because it is one of the most important qualities of a good leader. We all have to communicate and that is why no one should be ignorant of what effective communication is and how to make it work. For leaders, communication is even more important because of the large number of people they have to deal with. As a leader, you can mess things up terribly if you are not able to communicate effectively. And you can as well lead a very effective and productive team when you know how to communicate effectively.
As far as effective leadership skills are concerned, effective communication simply means getting a message across to some other person(s) so clearly that they are able to understand exactly what you wanted them to know and can give a response (if necessary) that is both satisfying and proves that they had the message right. Men like Martin Luther king, Barack Obama and the infamous Adolf Hitler were effective leaders mainly because they understood the importance of effective communication and practiced the same. These guys took time and put in effort to master the art of effective communication and you will have to do that too if you are looking forward to being an effective leader. The man or woman who knows to communicate effectively can lead people more effectively.
To communicate effectively, you must consider simplicity as the most important thing to watch out for. Sadly, some leaders are hardly able to pass across the simplest information because they are more concerned about oratory and grammatical skills than getting the message across. Even if you were talking to a hall filled with professors in whatever area or field you are discussing, you have to realize that not everyone is on the same level. Therefore, the simpler the better. Remember, the first tool of effective communication is simplicity.
Make use of the most appropriate means to communicate effectively and lead more efficiently. Understanding appropriate communication is one of the most effective tool of all leadership skills and abilities. As a leader, you must be conscious of the fact that the medium of communication you chose to use is vital and determines how well you are going to communicate. For example, it will be better to use a speech to appreciate the efforts of those you are leading than sending an email to each of them. It will also be more appropriate and effective to send instructions for workers through mail than through a phone call. With a phone call they may forget vital aspects of the instructions sent but they can always refer to an email sent whenever there is need.
There is no effective leadership without self-development
To lead, you have to constantly be ahead, especially with regards to knowledge. You cannot lead a people who are more informed than you are. Being an effective leader require that you constantly learn more, practice more and be truly ahead of those you are leading. This implies that to be an effective leader, you must constantly and consciously commit yourself to learning. One of the qualities of a good leader is that he has a deep desire to stay relevant to those he or she is leading and the cause for which he leads. This is accomplished by persistently studying and developing one’s self.
Those who know too much already are “too informed to lead”. If you aim at becoming an effective leader, you must never come to the place where you stop learning. Learning more and adding value to yourself is the way to lead effectively and make the most impact on those you are leading. Self-development is just as important in leadership and management as it is in governance.
Another area of self-development when it comes to leadership skills is physical fitness. You have to be physically fit to lead effectively. The amount of pressure put on leaders is sometimes enough to cause a breakdown of one’s entire body and mind. This can be avoided by committing yourself to physical and mental self-development. Go out for exercises regularly. Visit the gym or join a sports club. Whichever it is that you chose, make it count and keep in shape at all times.
There is a need to develop charisma
Effective leaders are charismatic. Though many think of charisma as something supernatural, it can actually be developed with the right knowledge and practice. Charisma consist of different things about one’s personality. Things that have the potential of drawing people to them and more importantly keeping those people at their side for a purpose. Like I said, charisma can be developed by doing certain things in a certain way. Charisma is one of those qualities of a good leader that makes the difference between successful leaders and unsuccessful ones.
One of strongest aspects of charisma is the way a person dresses. The first thing you will notice about people upon meeting them for the first time is their dressing. If you did not get the chance to talk to the person, you are going to draw your conclusions about what kind of person he or she is depending on the way they were dressed when you saw them. This implies that in the matter of leadership, your dressing very much determines what kind of person those you lead perceive you to be. For example, a leader who dresses casually to a board meeting will be considered unserious. What is more important is the fact that such a person would hardly be able to effectively lead the people who look up to him.
The next issue with regards to charisma is the way you carry yourself about. Effective leaders know how to carry themselves around properly and in a manner that denotes seriousness and commitment to purpose. It may seem funny for some people to know that most leaders they so much admire had to learn how to walk like leaders. This is very important because it influences even the effectiveness with which you are able to communicate, especially when you are making a presentation from a stage.
The last aspect of charisma I will address here is the way a leader talks. The way you dress, the way you carry yourself about and the way you talk all have the potential of either increasing or reducing your charisma. There is a way leaders talk. Their speech is characterized by boldness and confidence. Have you ever had an argument with someone and you had to believe the person’s point to be true simply because of the confidence and boldness with which they argued for what they thought was right. Then you go over the issue and find out that the other person was wrong all along but because of the way he or she spoke, you could not help giving in. That is the importance of talking like a leader. When you talk to people, there should be no place for uncertainty or timidity. This is vital to developing effective leadership skills. Whatever it is that you say, say it as though you could stake your life on it. If you do that, people will be willing to sacrifice a lot to join in on what you talk about.
Effective leaders take the forefront and lead by example
There is no such thing as leading from the back or from amongst the crowd. Leaders have to be the first to think things through and the first to take action. In leadership and management, people follow actions, not just words. If you are going to make impact as a leader, you have to be willing to get soiled and dirty. You must be willing to role the boat with the rest of the team. Those who simply fancy giving instructions and watching things happen from a distance are very far from effective leadership. You lead by example. The decision to always set the pace in word and more importantly in action is one the qualities of a good leader.
The significance of having the mindset of leading by example is that you become an inspiration for those you are leading. It is possible to force people to follow or obey you, but that is a very base and ineffective way to lead. You may get people to do what you want but you will never be able to accomplish much. The most effective way to lead people is to inspire them to action. Let them feel your passion and let that passion ignite a fire in their hearts. Let that fire be what drives them to action. Then and only then will you be able to get the best out of them.
This also requires that to a certain degree, you have to be present. Leaders who are hardly seen by the people they lead are likely to lose the trust of the people. If not in person, let the people you lead be able to feel your presence through those who represent you.
Effective leaders are moved by objectivity rather than emotionalism
Emotionalism is one thing that kills leadership and management abilities. Effective leaders know how to keep their cool and stay under control no matter what the situation is. To do this, you have to be as objective as you can be. In the face of disappointments or setbacks you cannot afford to be emotional. Being emotional in such circumstances is proof of immaturity and incompetence. You can hardly make the right decisions when you do it from a place of emotionalism. There are so many blunders you will make if you do not learn to be objective rather than emotional as a leader.
Setting goals is vital for effective leadership
Now let’s talk about goal setting and effective leadership skills. Knowledge of how to set goals is famous amongst leadership skills and abilities that make effective leaders. Leaders are there because there is something that has to be achieved. If there is no purpose, there is no need for a leader. In order to achieve purpose, goals have to be set and attained. You can only have people follow you as a leader when you have a target, something you are aiming at. Therefore, it is imperative that a leader understands the importance of setting goals and how it should be done. More important, effective leaders should be able to direct those they lead to goal attainment.
To be effective as a leader, you have to understand team work
It is absolutely necessary that every leader understands the importance of having a team. Teamwork is by far the most effective way to lead a people to vision fulfilment. As far as the team is concerned, you may not be able to personally select everyone who comes on boards but you sure have to select and know those who will occupy key positions in the team.
The first consideration to make is to ensure that each one of them is clear on what the vision is. They have to know where you are taking them to, even if they may not understand entirely how it is going to happen. As the leader, you must understand what team work is all about so that you are able to set things right.
Effective leaders are driven by purpose
We have already established that effective leaders are driven by the desire to fulfil a purpose. This means that every decision you make must be hinged on the need to fulfill a purpose. Everyone needs fulfilment. When you have a clear purpose as a leader, it helps you attract the right people to make up the right team. You will have far less trouble fulfilling your purpose if those you lead share the same vision and passion. This is because those people will find fulfilment in fulfilling the purpose for which you lead and that will make it difficult for them to leave you at a critical moment.
Purpose, in itself guides you as a leader and helps you stay on the right track. You have to be clear on what the purpose of your company, business, or even political party if you are going to be an effective leader. No one on the team is supposed to have uncertainties concerning the vision and the purpose of what they do under your leadership. When the purpose of leadership is not clear, there are more chances of making wrong decisions that have the potential to cause loses in time, resources and finances.
You must understand and sincerely appreciate the value of people
This is one area where many leaders fail. In a company setting for example, it is vital that a leader understands that he or she has nothing as valuable as the people he is leading. Sometimes leaders are drawn away by money and the desire to be famous, so much so that they begin to use those under then as tools to meeting their needs or those of the company. Nothing can be more disheartening for a follower. The way you treat those who follow you tells them what value you place on them and has a direct impact on how they will relate to you and serve the vision. Let’s make things clearer with one example. If you are leading a company that is probably just breaking even and is making just enough to survive, can you make the sacrifice of letting go of your salary in order to fairly pay your workers? This brings us to the next point.
Effective leadership demands a lot of sacrifice
Well, this is one thing many people are not willing to do. That is why very few people are actually very effective in leadership. You have to put in time, sometimes personal resources and forgo pleasure in order to make things work. No one becomes a leader at no cost. Leading is sacrificial and the more you can sacrifice for the purpose of leadership, the more effective you are going to be at it. Those you lead also have to make sacrifices but you have to be an example and inspiration to them in order to bring the best out of them. Don’t expect workers to be willing to put in extra hours and efforts at work if you can hardly stay in the office until after working hours. If you inspire and lead them in laziness and careless, that is exactly what you are going to get out of them.
Finally, the most effective leaders are the most self-disciplined
Almost every other thing we have mentioned here is a function of self-discipline. No one can lead himself, let alone lead others if they cannot keep their faculties under control. All leadership skills and abilities can only be practiced through self-discipline. The first step of leadership is leading yourself. It takes self-discipline to develop effective leadership skills. Those who can keep themselves under control the most can lead best. It takes self-discipline to show up at work every day even when you don’t feel like it and even when as the boss, you don’t have to. It takes self-discipline to remain calm and objective when every other person around you seems to be blowing a fuse. It takes self-discipline to put those you lead and their interests before yours.
Summarily, leadership is not magical or mystical. Anybody can be an effective leader if they will take the information here and put it to work.